Hotel room hacks for those annoying lights and gaping curtains

by Oct 25, 2023Planning

Hotel Room Hacks Annoying Lights

Bright lights and curtains that don’t close in hotel rooms are irritating. My bag full of tricks to help me sleep includes hangers, pillows, and duct tape to solve the issue of annoying lights to ensure a good night’s sleep.

It’s become a bit of an obsession, trying to cover up annoying lights in hotel rooms that pierce the darkness meant for sleep. From curtains that gape, window blinds that don’t close properly, and motion sensor lights that startle you at night, darkening hotel rooms to ensure a good night’s sleep when you are traveling has become my obsession.

All those intrusive lights, glowing LEDs, and motion sensors in hotel rooms seem to be increasing in today’s high-tech world (decreasing dark skies in today’s light-polluted world). I decided it was time to get serious about putting a stop to piercing green beams from new techie AC/heat controls, motion sensors in bathrooms that rip into your eyeballs in the middle of the night, and bedside clocks that glow brightly no matter how many buttons you press. Oh, just make it stop…. And you can, too.

That gear you need to do battle with glowing LEDs and gapping curtains is lightweight and small or already in a hotel room, from duct tape and pillows to clothes hangers and hair clips, to silver survival blankets and safety pins. Here are my top hotel room hacks to survive and sleep well despite all those blinkie, bright, bothersome lights in hotel rooms.

HITT Tip: Advance prep for covering annoying hotel room lights means asking for an extra set of towels when you check in, grabbing a random brochure or two from the lobby, and never throwing away your luggage tag from a flight since it can be stuck over lights.

Curtains – Why can’t hotels design window coverings so they close properly? This is one of the biggest sources of annoying lights in hotel rooms. Depending on the type of curtain or blind, I have used chairs, hangers, pillows, duct tape and even shoes to stop the gaping and light leakage. The solution depends on the problem.

Hotel Room Hack Pillow Chair Duct Tape Annoying Light

The beauty of extra pillows on a hotel room bed is how they can help stop gaps. Note the piece of tape over the window shades, too.

Hotel Room Hack Shoes Clock Annoying Light Curtain

Not enough pillows? Try other weighty items, like shoes or a room clock! What you don’t see so well is the creative solution in the upper right where I hooked a hanger with clips to the back of the TV and then clipped it to the curtain to keep it in place.

Hotel Room Hack Hanger Pillow Curtain

Those practical hangers with clips are awesome everywhere.

Hotel Room Hack Duct Tape Annoying Light

Duct tape is always packed along. Don’t forget your small roll.

Hotel Room Hack Pillow Corner Annoying Light

In this case, a corner window with a ledge meant hangers or chairs wouldn’t work. But a room pillow and a few other items kept the shade pressed to the window to shut out light.

HITT Tip: Duct tape is also sold in small rolls so be sure to order these prior to a trip and pack one along. I like orange or another bright color since it can help me remember to take it down when I check out or not forgetting something I want to keep for the next hotel.

Smoke alarms or ceiling motion sensors – New-fangled smoke alarms have these piercing laser beam lights that blink on and off to let you know they are working – usually right over the bed to add to the annoyance. I know, close your eyes and you won’t see it. But I swear it pierces through my eyelids! Hotel room safety is essential, so please don’t disengage it, but this is where that tiny roll of duct tape I carry comes in handy. Cut off a small chunk and paste it right over the light. Sometimes it needs a second layer. If you don’t have duct tape, use the sticky end of your luggage tag from your flight or some other adhesive tag. This also works on ceiling motion sensors some modern hotels have installed to turn off lights automatically if no movement is sensed. Tape on, light gone,…or certainly dim enough not to be so bothersome.

Hotel Room Hack Tape Over Fire Alarm Light

Michael is pressing a sticky label to a ceiling sensor light that was an eyeball-piercing beam. Duct tape would work, too.

Televisions – The glowing red light on the front of a television doesn’t look bright until you turn out the lights and then it becomes a piercing red annoyance. I have found several solutions exist here depending on the placement of the light. Look for magazines, towels, hotel information books or menus, or pieces of thick paper.

Hotel Room Hack Menu Blocking Light

A hotel information sheet helped block this light that was too high for many other things.

Hotel Room Hack Bag Tag Television Light

Not being a TV watcher, I always cover up the remote control light. In this case, a friend came to my door and, as she talked to me, she looked up and asked quizically, “Why is your luggage tag hanging on the TV?”

Hotel Room Hacks Towel Television Light

Towels come in real handy. Here, the screen had a light at the top AND at the bottom, so a towel hanging long did the job for both.

Hotel Room Hacks Towel Top Of Television

Why are the lights on the face of microwaves so bright? Another towel to the rescue.

Clocks or telephones – These are usually pretty easy to cover up since they are on a table. Use a washcloth or towel or, if needed, a jacket or piece of clothing.

Hotel Room Hack Towel Covers Phone

Hotel Room Hack Clock Covered By Towel

Wall AC/heat controls, sensors, or switches – If these control aren’t low enough over a table to prop up a magazine, book, or tablet in front of them, then you need to go sticky again with a luggage bag tag or a chunk of duct tape. Or get creative with a piece of thick paper you bend to hang over the top.

Hotel Room Hack Wall Sensor Bag Tag

Luggage tags from your flight are really helpful.

Hotel Room Hack Tape Light Sensor

Duct tape over a sensor light!

Hotel Room Hack Cardboard Thermostat Light

This modern AC/heat control panel had a large bright screen. But the key holder worked its magic bent over the top.

Doors – Hotel doors are often not well sealed, letting in light from the bottom and sometimes even around the door jam. Shutting down this excess light from the source if it’s at the bottom of the door is also easy: Just fold up a towel, and lay it across the bottom. However, I have also had an issue with light seeping in the side of a door, and that took some extra MacGyver creativity using aforementioned towel and a hanger.

Hotel Room Hack Towel Door Bottom

Large under-door slits are easy to stop up with a towel.

Hotel Room Hack Towel On Hanger Door

Towel clipped to a hanger and hung on the room door to block a lot of bright hallway light.

Bathroom motion sensors – OK, so I know hotels want to avoid liability but criminy who wants to be blasted with a blaring light in the middle of the night on a bathroom run?! Turning them off is typically not an option as the light simply resets. It takes some DENSE coverage, going beyond the all-powerful duct tape or luggage tag. Best we can find is thickly rolled towels leaning against the sensor – just make sure it is FULLY covered.

Hotel Room Hack Motion Light Sensor

You have to be really thorough with bathroom motion sensor lights so that’s why two towels here.

Windows (bonus for the super light sensitive, and that includes me) – If you are used to sleeping dark, then windows without curtains or sheer curtains that don’t block light at all just don’t do it. Yes, I carry eye shades to block light but if you are somewhere with this problem for more than a couple of nights, wearing shades constantly can get uncomfortable. Two solutions can be done on-the-spot while another requires some planning.

For quickie solutions to cover sheer window shades or unshaded windows, hang an extra blanket over the curtain rod or snag some cardboard and stick it in the window (see below). Advance-planning solutions mean packing along a silver survival blanket and hanging it over the curtain rod in the evening (be sure to take it down when you leave the room so housekeeping doesn’t freak out!)

Hotel Room Hack Silver Blanket Window

This hotel room had really sheer curtains and I was prepared with a silver blanket which I taped up each night and took down each morning when I left the room.

Hotel Room Hack Cardboard Window

This small window did not have a covering so I talked to the owner of the small inn and got some cardboard, applying duct tape to help it stay. She left it up since she was aware of it. Note the uncovered window in the bathroom to the left — I just had to close the bathroom door at night.

For less sensitive sleepers, I know the reaction could be a giggle about my obsession with covering light sources and the creative use of luggage bag tags, hangers, and duct tape. But everybody has their foibles, and light in a room is one of mine. I LIKE my sleep, especially to recover from travel or rest after a long day of sightseeing or photography!  Studies have indeed shown that light in a room causes less restful sleep – even if you aren’t aware of it. Especially as frequent travelers – and as travel writers and photographers, that would apply to myself and Michael — a good night’s sleep is always essential to fully jump into work (or play) on vacation or work assignment while traveling.

Once you know where to look and what hotel room hacks work the best to eliminate annoying lights in hotel rooms, you can ignore sniggers from traveling companions, get these issues taken care of, get some great sleep, and head off fully rested for a day of work or fun wherever you are traveling.

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1 Comment

  1. Ty

    I’m relieved to know that I’m not the only one with this obsession! 😂 I’ll add a few things I didn’t see mentioned here. One is to unplug electronics when possible. Another is to be careful when putting tape over the smoke detector light. Sometimes the light is part of the test button. I found out the hard way when I pressed a piece of duct tape onto the light/button at 10:30 at night. Thankfully, the rooms next door to me were vacant!


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